Battle of the Pillar of Autumn: The Last Stand
Posted By: UNSC Trooper<email@example.com>
Date: 25 July 2007, 1:31 pm
We all know what happened, the way it ended and the way it began. This is the battle we didn't see, the Last Stand.
BATTLE OF THE PILLAR OF AUTUMN: THE LAST STAND
September 19, 2552
Crash site of the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, Installation 04
Remaining survivors: Captain Jacob Keyes, Sergeant Corly, Seventeen UNSC Marines
Three large successive explosions on the starboard side shook the ship violently and slowly but surely, tilted the ship towards the left side. Anyone who was being caught standing up while the ship was taking enemy fire would've found themselves landing upside down on the floor. There was no doubt about it, the Autumn was nearing its unavoidable end, a much too early death for such a young piece of military engineering.
"Status, Lieutenant Purdy!", Captain Keyes asked Lieutenant Gail Purdy, one of the most experienced pilots he ever had the honor of working with.
"Sir, we have over ten hits on both starboard and larboard sides, and we're still taking heavy fire. We're going down sir, there's nothing we can do.", Lieutenant Purdy answered looking at his command screen.
"Yes there is, power up the main thruster engines, we're making a run for that ring right there.", Keyes spoke with a confident tone to his voice.
"But sir, we don't even know what the hell that thing is. Wouldn't we have a better chance of initiating a rescue code for the remaining ships on Reach, so they can come to our aid?", Lieutenant Purdy enquired with a subtile frown on his face.
"There are no remaining ships on Reach, they've all been destroyed. We have no other choice, power up the engines, that's an order!", Keyes said with an angry tone.
"Yes sir. Powering up main thrusters, thrusters charging at eighty percent power, eighty five, ninety. Captain, I suggest you hold on to something, it's gonna' be a rough ride.",
"Thanks for the tip.", the Captain grabbed hold of the side bar running down the holopanel's command prompt.
In a few moments, the ship blasted through space at maximum speed. However, the Covenant patrol ships have always been considerably faster and proved to be more efficient during deep space chases, thus they could easily pursue the enemy ships at extraordinary speeds. The engines quickly exhausted all of the fuel they had left, and suddenly the Autumn turned into a giant floating glider. As incredible as it may seem, this proved to be an advantage for the crew on-board the Autumn. The ship was extremely close to the atmospheric entry point of the strange ring shaped mega-structure.
Within a few seconds, air started rubbing the Autumns fuselage, producing a splendid spectacle of lights zooming and blazing through the ship's vision shields while entering the ring's atmosphere. This, was the moment of truth, the moment that would change or end the Captains' and crewmembers' lives. The speed with which the Autumn was entering the atmosphere was easily approaching its maximum peek.
"What the-- I'm losing her, she's not responding, I can't control her anymore! We're gonna' crash! Everyone assume crash positions ... now!", Lieutenant Purdy shouted.
"This is it, we're dead meat man!", Co-pilot Lieutenant Peterson screamed in a stroke of panic.
A view of the incoming spaceship from the ground would have involved a loud - almost deafening - sound as the ship came ever closer to hitting the ground. The ship fiercely scattered the dust off the ground and slid a dozen hundred meters as it crashed, ending its perilous journey helplessly hanging off the edge of a cliff.
Inside the ship, Captain Keyes was struggling to regain consciousness after he had hit his forehead on the holopanel control prompt. The impact was extremely violent, killing both Lieutenant Purdy and Peterson, the ship's pilots.
"Am I ... dead?", Captain Keyes asked himself, "Well, I'm talking to myself ... that's a good sign. God damned holo-shield!", he said while clutching his head in pain and trying to stand up on his feet.
The equipment on the bridge was all burned out, the Statistics panels were no longer operational, just like all the rest of the electronic hardware. Captain Keyes looked out the front vision shield while still trying to regain full control over his wounded body. It seemed like the Autumn had crashed on some desert-like terrain covered with dark colored sand. The Captain looked around the crash site and quickly realized the ship was standing on the edge of a very deep cliff - "A hell of a place to land", he said to himself.
The main engine was still vibrating and occasionally trembling the fuselage, almost as if it was taking its last breath of air before dying out, such as a wounded deer would lie down before its hunter. A few moments later, silence seized the entire ship - it had passed away into darkness.
"Great, now what?", Captain Keyes spoke in anger. "Is anyone out there ... anyone?", he started yelling throughout the eerie corridors and tunnels of the dead ship.
All of a sudden several human voices echoed and resounded all around the corridors. "Captain, captain! Man are we glad to see you.", a UNSC Marine running down one of the corridors said, accompanied by his two other comrades.
"Are there any other survivors, marine?", the Captain asked with a smile on his face. He was obviously very happy to meet a surviving crew member.
"Yes sir, Sergeant Corly and his fire squad are on the second floor checking if anyone else made it through the crash. I told them to meet us on the bridge once they're finished.", the Marine answered.
The other marines and Sergeant Corly received confirmation that Captain Keyes was alive and reached the bridge shortly afterwards. The marines and Sergeant Corly aligned themselves in front of the the Captain.
"Both our pilots are dead, and so are our communication operators. How many survivors are there, Sergeant?", Keyes asked nodding his head towards Sergeant Corly.
"The ones you are looking at this very moment. A total of nineteen men, sir. Seventeen marines from Gamma Fire Squad, myself, and you, Captain.", Corly answered.
The captain nodded his head, "I see, has anyone contacted the Master Chief and Cortana yet?".
"Yes sir, we did, but there was no response. There's a high chance they didn't even make it on the ring. Their Lifepod was probably intercepted and destroyed.", Private Manuel Mendoza answered.
Captain Keyes sighed, "Our only hope of calling in for assistance is Cortana, and Cortana is of no use to us if the Master Chief isn't there to activate her. We're on our own. I don't like this situation, I don't like it one bit.", the Captain was obviously very nervous and for some reason he started shivering.
"You alright, Cap'?.", Sergeant Corly enquired with a worried tone.
"We're lost, there's no point in continuing the fight. If those bisonskies got their hands on Cortana, nothing will stop them from assaulting Earth with their entire murdering fleet.", Keyes said while looking out the front window at the horizon of the ring.
The marines became speechless, disturbingly looking at each other - perhaps in fear over the potential loss of their home planet. The blood stained history of mankind seemed to disappear in those particular moments. For the first time in history people put aside their meaningless differences and united their power and minds in a fight against a common foe. Captain Keyes turned around and looked at the frightened soldiers.
"We still have a chance of saving our own asses. We either get off the ship and seek shelter or we stay on the ship and hide. Which one is it?", Keyes asked the men.
"Neither, sir. We get off the ship and--", a marine answered and got interrupted by a disagreeing comrade.
"Are you nuts?! There'll be dozens of Covenant patrol ships swarming the place in a matter of hours, maybe even minutes. The best thing to do is to stay inside the ship and hide.", the marine said.
"Then you go hide, coward, if you're not man enough!", another Marine shouted.
"The ship's going to be the first place they'll search for survivors. We either surrender or fight.", Sergeant Corly answered.
The word "surrender" wasn't exactly what Captain Keyes wanted to hear from his soldiers - or any Captain for that matter.
"One thing's for certain, we're not going to let the Autumn fall into Covenant hands. The ship is our property and it saved our lives. I believe it's only fair we save her from becoming a victim in this crappy war. It's our responsibility to protect the property of the UNSC." The Captain stood still for a moment and gave the final order, "We're going to stay here and fight."
"Sir, I strongly recommend we find our way off the ship and get back to Naval Command on Fort York. There's no way the nineteen of us can fend off a thousand angry aliens.", Sergeant Corly responded.
"Freakin' odds, that's why!", Private Cortez exclaimed.
"You're wrong Sergeant. The weak ones will always overcome the strong ones if they're brave enough and work together. Do you think the ancient Spartans took account of the Persians massive numbers at Thermopylae? Did Custer run from the way of two thousand rampaging native americans? Did the soldiers at the Alamo hide inside the fortress and wait for the Mexicans to set it on fire? No, they didn't. They held their ground and fought the enemy to the last man.", Keyes spoke in a self-confident manner.
"But sir, all those guys eventually lost their battles.", Private Mendoza said.
"Exactly!", the Captain exclaimed, "We're going to change all that."
"The Captain's right.", a female marine said, "This ship might be a wreck, but it's still our property. I'm sticking with the Captain on this one. I'm fighting!"
Sergeant Corly started nervously walking around the bridge with his hands behind his back. "I wonder if the Spartans thought of the Persians as a race of ugly aliens, 'cause man, this is surely a first!" He pulled out his M6D Magnum Pistol, "I never thought I'd say this, but let's party!"
"Oo-rah!", the marines yelled all at once.
"We need all the ammo we can get our hands on. Fire Squad one, you go search the first and second levels for ammunition, food and water. Me and Fire Squad two will be searching the lower levels. Meet me and the Captain on the Emergency Escape bridge as soon as your done searching. Dismissed!", Sergeant Corly ordered while pointing his finger to the right side of the ship.
"Understood sir. Let's move out, we've got a lot of searching to do!", the Squad Leader said.
"Reggie, you're the communications expert. Try to dial Cortana's contact coordinates, the Master Chief might still make it on the ring."
"Yes sir, I'll do my best", Reggie answered.
Both Squads managed to salvage a great deal of ammunition and resources necessary for a successful Stand against the Covenant. Captain Keyes, Sergeant Corly and the seventeen marines used the Emergency Escape bridge to exit the ship, which had to be opened manually, as the electronic system was completely disabled.
A loud screeching noise was heard while the Exit gate was manually opened by clockwise rotation of the Opening Lever.
"Everybody get out. Double time!", Keyes yelled at the marines.
The gap between the Exit gate and the ground was about ten meters tall. The marines had to perform a basic training exercise and jump to the ground without hitting it too hard.
"Alright boys, here's the drill. We set up a defense bunker over there", Captain Keyes pointed his finger towards the far corner of the ship's right side - also named the "starboard" side. "The bunker's going to be built out of whatever pillbox shields we have left. The enemy is surely going to assault the starboard side, because frankly, that's where the only ground Entrance to the ship is. That's where Alpha Squad is going to be stationed. Bravo Squad will receive the honor of firing the first round of shots over at the opposite flank thirty meters away from the main bunker, over at the rear of the ship. Of course they will also be provided with a defense bunker."
"Am I the only that feels this isn't fair?", Private Charles of Bravo Squad asked with a sarcastic tone to his voice. "I mean, we're the first ones to get killed out there while Alpha Squad is sitting on their lazy butts doing nothing."
"Watch your mouth you moron. That's no way to talk in the presence of a Captain.", Sergeant Corly shouted at Charles and expressing a deep frown.
"Alpha Squad is going to cover your backs. So don't think they'll be just sitting there watching. In case Bravo Squad gets overrun - and that's quite a great possibility - the remaining troops will make a run for Alpha Squad's main bunker. That's where the last stand will occur. I thought of naming it the Alamo. In case the Alamo gets overrun there's nothing more we can other than attempting to evade the battle.", Keyes said.
"You all heard the Captain, get moving, set up the bunkers!", Sergeant Corly ordered.
"Sir, yes sir!", the marines yelled.
In a matter of minutes the pillbox shields had been positioned the way Captain Keyes indicated. Bravo Squad comprised of ten marines would be stationed in a bunker at the rear of the ship. Alpha Squad and the main bunker would be positioned on the center of the starboard side.
"Nightfall is approaching. I suggest you all get some sleep, tomorrow might be our last day alive.", Captain Keyes spoke to the Marines and the Sergeant.
September 20, 2552
Crash site of the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, Installation 04
The day of the battle
Sunrise couched over the wrecked ship, and one by one, the remaining survivors of the crash woke up from their intense slumber. Perhaps this was the day their lives ended, and they would leave the world engulfed by wars and suffering they have been living in. They might finally find peace and relief in a world far more tranquil.
"Sir, it's Cortana, they made it!", communications expert Reggie told the Captain.
"What? How do you know?", Keyes answered astonished.
"She dialed our INTERCOM contact coordinates, their lifepod made it on the ring. I told her our current position, the Master Chief will get us out of here in a few hours time."
"That's not going to help us under any circumstances. The blood-thirsty alien bisonskies will get here before they do.", Keyes answered.
Reggie expressed a profound sadness on his face when he heard the Captain's reply. A face-off with the Covenant was now inevitable. Out of the horizon came a noise of unrest and hustle, similar to a heavy weather storm.
"What's that noise? Tornado?", Sergeant Corly asked the Captain while looking at the clouded horizon.
"No Sergeant, combat formations.", Keyes calmly answered.
The Sergeant took one last glimpse of the Captain's face and realized what he meant. "Alpha Squad, Bravo Squad, assume battle positions, now!", he shouted. Several small and large shillouettes were now visible in the distance, growing ever bigger in size. It was them, the armies of a dozen unified alien races, varying from midget sized Grunts to eight feet tall Elite warriors and Hunters, fiercely charging towards the Autumn's wreck. Sergeant Corly was stationed in the Bravo Squad bunker at the rear of ship, along with ten of his men.
"Remember your training on Eridanus II boys! Do not waste your ammo, one shot one kill! Keep your eyes pealed and you will make it out of this battle alive, you get me?!", the Sergeant tried to encourage the terrified marines.
"We get you sir!", the marines replied.
The enemy was now charging at a distance of only five hundred meters from the UNSC marines.
"Hold ... hold!", Sergeant Corly exclaimed. The enemy was getting closer, four hundred, three hundred, two hundred meters. "Fire!", he shouted.
The sounds of gunshots took over the battle zone as the marines were obviously not keeping what the Sergeant told them in mind. They shot anything that seemed alien to them, completely forgetting to spare the ammunition.
"There must be at least three thousand of them! Give 'em all you got!", Mendoza shouted. Meanwhile the Grunts began firing their dreaded needlers.
"Take cover! Don't let 'em hit you!"
But it was already too late to hide from the advanced weapons the aliens were disposing of. Two marines, one male and one female got stabbed by the diamon-like projectiles the needlers were shooting at them. They died in the blink of an eye.
"Two marines down, we have two marines down sir!", Mendoza yelled at the Sergeant.
"Shut up and keep firing!", Corly replied.
Alpha Company appeared to be fending off the assaulting Grunts. "Sir, Bravo Team has lost two marines.", the Squad Leader told the Captain.
"Tell them to hide from the needlers, otherwise they'll get torn apart.", Keyes replied.
Bravo team successfully repelled the first wave of Grunts. For a moment the marine's spirits gained confidence. That is, until the second wave of Elites showed up.
"It's the big guys, fire, fire at will!", the Corly shouted. The plasma rifles broke through the pillbox shields of the bunker. There was no place of hiding for the marines now. Three more men got hit by the burning plasma shots and died shortly afterwards.
"We lost three men, they're right on top of us. They're getting closer!", in a matter of seconds two more marines fell in the line of duty.
"Two more down sir. We're being overrun!", Mendoza shouted at the Sergeant.
"That's it. Captain, Bravo Team has been overrun, requesting retreat to the Alamo, over.", Corly told the Captain.
"Request granted, get your asses out of there."
The Sergeant, Private Mendoza and Private Foster started running down the side of the ship to the main bunker. During the retreat, private Foster got impaled by a needler projectile right in his forehead. The wound was fatal. At the time when Sergeant Corly and Mendoza reached the Alamo, Alpha Team was still maintaining their ground, and hadn't lost any men.
"Grenades, throw all your grenades! Blow up the bisonskies!", Captain Keyes shouted.
The marines threw one grenade at a time, however, the grenades didn't seem to breach the lines of the Elites. The nightmare had only begun.
"They're gonna' try and flank us!" , Corly exclaimed.
"Crap, they're getting reinforcements. My God, they're getting Hunters!", Keyes shouted in fear. "Take out those hunters, before they fry our asses!"
The MA5B assault rifle bullets couldn't break through the reinforced Hunter's steel armor. The Hunters fired one round of rockets at the bunker but missed it by a few meters worth of distance.
"Jesus! Take them out now!", Sergeant Corly ordered his men. Within a few moments, the marine's futile attempts to disable the hunters were only proving to result in a waste of ammo. The Hunters fired another round of rockets and hit the bunker. The battle was lost, Alpha Team didn't have any place to take cover in. There was only one thing they could do.
"Disengage now! Run, run as far away as you can!", the Captain ordered. What remained of Alpha Team started running as far away as they could from the battle zone. Two other marines and Sergeant Corly got killed by the Hunter's rocket launchers. All that was left of the Bravo and Alpha Team was Captain Jacob Keyes, and four wounded marines. There was no point in running away anymore. A team of only four marines couldn't stand against a thousand rampaging aliens. Captain Keyes surrendered his men and himself to the will of the enemy.
Up to this day, that battle went unnoticed and unrecorded on any kind of UNSC Military databases or ONI battle archives. The death of seventeen brave marines, a Captain, and a Sergeant was un-credited, and the attempt to protect the property of humanity at the cost of ones life was never mentioned in public. As a matter of fact, according to the Timeline of the Human-Covenant war, this battle never even took place. I cannot conceive the foolishness with which the United Nations Space Command treated this matter. However, we must look into future that awaits us, a future which I hope, will be as peaceful as possible.
DATABASE OF THE MILITARY HISTORY MUSEUM, NEW YORK, 2798